Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's the infrastructure, stupid

This Rollcall article by think tankers Robert Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute implies that broadband black holes are caused by a lack of Internet bandwidth. To fill in the holes, Shapiro and Hassett suggest, simply charge large bandwidth users more.

The problem with their analysis is that it assumes broadband black holes are a pricing problem. Wrong answer. It's an infrastructure problem. The holes are there because the business models of the incumbent telco and cable providers don't allow them to fill them. The investor-owned incumbents must earn a return on their capital expenditures within five years but they can only do so in selected parts of their service areas. Hence, limited availability of the advanced telecommunications infrastructure necessary to deliver Internet protocol-based advanced telecommunications services. The telco/cable duopoly has long charged business users higher prices to subsidize services to lower revenue residential customers. That pricing differential has done nothing to spur investment in investor-owned advanced telecommunications infrastructure.

What's needed to fill in the broadband black holes are alternative business models such as nonprofit consumer-owned telecom cooperatives formed a century ago when the investor owned telcos were unable to profitably provide telephone service to large parts of the nation. Local governments can play a similar role.

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